Letter From Toronto: Films on Striving to Be Black in America


Toronto Film Festival 2019: Beyond Black Lives Matter, ”Waves“ and ”American Son“ depict a netherworld where the upper middle class black experience teeters on the edge of tragedy

Two films in the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival explore the painful pressures placed on upwardly mobile African American families seeking to get ahead in society. The families may push their kids hard to overachieve, these films say, but they must balance that against the intolerable pressures those efforts may place on them, particularly their sons.

In “Waves,” written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, handsome high school senior Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is close to the gold ring — he trains hard as a competitive wrestler, does his homework, drives a cool car and has a cool girlfriend. His overachieving dad (Sterling K Brown) pushes Tyler still harder — maybe too hard.

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Sharon Waxman

Sharon Waxman, is the founder, CEO and Editor in Chief of TheWrap. She is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, and was a Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times. Twitter: @sharonwaxman